The cheapest addition to the XYZ 3D printer family is the da Vinci Jr. 1.0, and one of the least expensive models we tested this year. This handsome guy is marketed towards a consumer that is intrigued by 3D printing but doesn’t really want to invest that much. At a price point of $350, you’re also getting user-friendly software, enclosed printing, and an online community.
This is pretty much a plug and play machine. There are few instructions to follow, including using the quick-release detachable print head (a nice little feature) to assist with inserting the guide tube. It’s calibration free, so no painful bed leveling. Although this machine would be easy to operate for anyone who has had some printing experience, it would be nice to include an intro to 3D printing pamphlet, DVD, USB stick, carrier pigeon, or anything to help ease an enthusiast over the common pitfalls of this nuanced game.
SHE’S A LOOKER
This very handsome machine looks as though it’s taking a few design cues from the original iMac. The fully-enclosed case is great for someone with children — it keeps the print safe from outside disturbance and keeps small fingers safe from hot ends and moving gears, all the while leaving a great view of the printing action. The convenient flip-up front panel opens wide enough to allow easy access to the print bed and filament holder (also contained inside). The easy-to-navigate control system uses a somewhat cheap-looking LCD, though it is not hard to read. And let’s not forget the well-placed SD card; in this age of Wi-Fi cloud printing, I’m happy to have the convenience of an SD card.
This printer offers a decent print volume, 5.9″ square. The good news: It only costs $350. The bad news: It prints like it only costs $350. The results are underwhelming. The hardware is an interesting mix of components. (It even looks as though they are using a few inkjet printer parts.)
But the guts seem fairly sturdy, so most likely the lack of print quality is a result of software. While it’s fairly user friendly, with minimal options to confuse beginners, the slicing is slower than Cura and seems to have trouble handling anything less than a perfect model. I’ve had it trip up on several models where other slicers haven’t. Hopefully XYZ will step up their game and update soon.
THE OTHER SHOE DROPS
Despite its troubles with print quality, I still want to like this printer because of the price point. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for improved software, but I’m skeptical about its use of chipped filament. The prices aren’t outrageous (yet) — it probably runs about twice as much as free-market filament. XYZ, in their infinite marketing wisdom, has half-heartedly disguised this as an easy and convenient way of changing out filament. Typically, that simply involves disassembling a screwed-together spool holder and switching out the sensor chip. It’s the last place the 3D printing world really needed an innovation. Unfortunately, this decision seems to be in an effort to make sure the consumer continues to buy overpriced filament from the company.
The da Vinci Jr. is made to look pretty on the store shelves — maybe pulling in an impulse buy from a parent that didn’t know these newfangled contraptions were so affordable. This machine is for a consumer that is interested in running an occasional novelty print, like a bath toy for the kids, where the expectation of quality isn’t all that high. Consider not just the upfront cost, but also the long-run expense when you factor in filament.